The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

FAIRBANKS — This column regularly discusses building science, energy and ventilation in the context of the Fairbanks area. Readers may wonder how Fairbanks homes compare in these topics to other regions. The 2014 Alaska Housing Assessment provides new information that allows us to compare the energy characteristics of housing in the Fairbanks North Star Borough with the rest of the state.

The report finds that households in Fairbanks are spending a lot of money on energy, averaging $8,100 per year per home for heating, hot water and electricity. This is approximately three times more than the average annual energy cost in Anchorage, and nearly four times the national average. Out of all 29 census areas in Alaska, Fairbanks ranks fourth in highest total energy cost.

However, this is partially because residents have larger homes than other regions of Alaska. 

The average home size in Fairbanks is double that of some rural regions. In fact, on a per square foot basis, some rural areas spend twice as much on heat and electricity as Fairbanks, due to higher fuel oil costs and less efficient buildings.

The housing Assessment also shows that many Fairbanks residents are improving the energy efficiency of their homes, with nearly 20 percent of occupied housing completing either the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s Home Energy Rebate or Weatherization Assistance programs or having been certified to meet the Alaska Building Energy Efficiency Standard.

An analysis of the Home Energy Rebate Program shows that Fairbanks homeowners have seen average energy savings of approximately 30 percent from improving their homes. These programs are still available today — households that have not yet participated can find details about how to enroll at www.ahfc.us/efficiency/energy-programs.

Our recent report also shows that newer homes in Fairbanks are much more airtight and energy efficient than older homes, reflecting improved building technology as well as high energy costs in the Interior. Homes built since 2005 use 35 percent less energy on average than 1970s-era homes.

If you have an older home, you can benefit from enrolling in one of the state’s energy efficiency retrofit programs and reducing your energy bills. If you’re considering purchasing a home, make sure to look at past energy bills, as data show a large variation in energy use among similarly sized houses.

As a whole, the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s housing stock is the fifth most energy efficient in terms of heating in Alaska. 

This is likely in part due to the fact that Fairbanks homes on average are the most airtight in the state, helping to save energy and increase comfort for many residents.

For the full housing assessment, visit www.ahfc.us/efficiency/research-information-center/housing-assessment.

Ask a Builder articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, contact us at info@cchrc.org or 457-3454.